Guest Column

How Much Influence?

by Gay Fawcett

Recently a young colleague who is in graduate school preparing to be a principal asked me, “How much influence do you think a principal can have over the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction experienced by teachers in a school?” One of her professors had raised the question, and she thought I could share some insight from my many years in various administrative roles.

The question made me wonder how the professor would define satisfaction and, in the end, what would influence the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the principal — certainly a chicken-and-egg problem that perhaps only a poem can capture. And that’s exactly how I composed my response.

I hope my poem provoked my colleague to think deeply about her future role as a principal. More importantly, I hope it will push other school leaders to think carefully about their responsibility for creating great principals.

Satisfying the Staff
A great principal knows:

satisfied teachers laugh often so she lets them see her sense of humor;
satisfied teachers like their colleagues so she makes sure they play together;
satisfied teachers live balanced lives so she respects their personal time.

A great principal knows:

satisfied teachers feel appreciated so she comments when they go the extra mile;
satisfied teachers get weary so she protects them from initiative overload;
satisfied teachers feel respected so she doesn’t try to impose her way of teaching on them.

A great principal knows:

satisfied teachers really care about kids so she asks about individual children daily;
satisfied teachers anguish over students they can’t reach so she helps them find solutions;
satisfied teachers know how to teach and assess students so she refuses to pressure them for higher test scores;
satisfied teachers can’t think of anything more important than kids so she puts the paperwork aside and visits every classroom every day.

A great principal knows:

satisfied teachers are decision makers so she doesn’t do anything for them that they could do for themselves;
satisfied teachers grow professionally so she asks the hard questions that make them think deeply about why they do what they do;
satisfied teachers need to improve so she encourages them to take risks and helps them learn from their mistakes;
satisfied teachers need to stretch so she provides thought-provoking articles to make them think.

A great principal knows:

there’s a world of difference between comfortable teachers and satisfied teachers;
satisfied teachers are great teachers;
satisfied teachers rarely exist without great principals;
and great principals are satisfied principals.

Gay Fawcett recently retired as director of curriculum and instruction in the Mayfield, Ohio, City Schools. She can be reached at 141 E. Mohawk Drive, Malvern OH 44644. E-mail: